Saturday, November 14, 2020

Alex Trebek/What is today's post about?

(ADDED on Nov 23: Ken Jennings will be an interim host for Jeopardy, see here.)

 Alex Trebek, long time host of the TV show Jeopardy! (the exclamation point is part of the name, though I will omit it for the rest of the post), passed away in November of 2020 at the age of 80. He announced he had pancreatic cancer in March 2019.

0) Here is a pointer to a page that has all of our posts with the word Jeopardy in them. Some are about the show and others mention the show in passing. All of the posts relate to the TV show. That is because Lance and I lead fairly safe lives.

1) On April Fools day of 1997 Pat Sajak hosted Jeopardy and Alex Trebek hosted Wheel of Fortune. Both are on You tube: Trebek hosts wheelPat hosts Jeopardy Alex's hosting was more fun because- well, you can see for yourself. 

2) Aside from that one day, Alex Trebek hosted Jeopardy every night since he began in 1984. 

3) My favorite pangram (sentence that has all 26 letters) is

Watch Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek's fun TV quiz game show. 

(See my post on natural pangrams here for... more natural pangrams and a discussion of what natural means.) 

It's my favorite since I can really imagine someone saying it. The show should have used it for its tagline. And now they can't :-(

4) From Alex's comments he seems to like high scoring games that are not run-a-ways. He also likes when people bet big on the daily doubles and on final Jeopardy.  I think he liked having long win streaks like Ken Jenning's  and James Holzhauer, but see point 7 below.  I think he didn't like it when people go for the high scoring questions first (perhaps looking for the Daily Double) since sometimes the category name is not quite clear (e.g., Country Groups could be things like NATO or things like The Charlie Daniels Band) so you want to do a cheap question to get your feet wet, and also easier for the audience to see what the category means.  IMHO they should really make the Daily Double Uniformly distributed on all the squares instead of having it tend to be the bigger-money questions. 

5) When the final Jeopardy category is  revealed he sometimes says that's a  good category! or that sounds hard.  Makes me wonder that if he makes no comment he is thinking that's a stupid category  or Gee that's easy.

6) Because of the pandemic they could not, for a while, make new shows. Hence  they aired old shows including the  first ever Alex-Trebek-Jeopardy (the show had been hosted by Art Fleming and the Trebek-version was really a reboot). From that show I found out WHY it's called Jeopardy (a question I had never thought about). It's because if you get an answer WRONG you can LOSE money- that's the Jeopardy. Not really a good name, but by now everyone knows the show by that name.

7) Art Fleming also died of pancreatic cancer, back in 1995 (he was 70). Coincidence? Well, yes, though two game show hosts of the same show dying of the same disease 25 years apart could be the premise of a really bad murder mystery. 

8) Alex makes some small talk with the contestants  (though some is edited for time). Things like I hear you have a book on muffins that is not a cookbook-- what's that all about?' I wonder if during Ken Jenning's 74-long winning streak, towards the end,  Alex ran out of things to ask him. I can imagine I hear you're pretty good at Jeopardy.

9) I wonder how good Alex would be playing Jeopardy. When he hosted Wheel of Fortune he said in passing that he would NEVER go on Jeopardy as a contestant, so he doesn't think he would do well. He could be wrong about that since over time they ask questions that are not quite repeats but draw on the same knowledge- and he's heard all of them. However, it could be that he is too busy concentrating on other things to really absorb all of this knowledge. 

10) The we give the answers you give the questions is a bit odd. However, in my classes I  sometimes say  We'll Trebek this - we know what the answer is, we have to find the question.

11) This youtube video is of a contestant singing WORDS to the Jeopardy theme song that he wrote.The contestant  refers to Jon Stewart as having also written words to the Jeopardy theme, but I can't find that anywhere- if you can, let me know. 

12) Weird Al did a novelty song about Jeopardy using Art Fleming in the video (see  here)  I always hoped he would update it and use Alex Trebek. He never did and now he can't :-( OR-with todays technology maybe he can. Here's hoping!

13) Alex Trebek was in a category by himself!


  1. Thanks for some interesting Jeopardy tidbits. My wife and I watch Jeopardy religiously and try to question the answers along with the contestants. It's always good to keep our aging minds active. One of my pet peeves with the show is that they show the written questions but not the categories.

    Perhaps it was out of respect for Trebek's very recent passing, but one issue you failed to comment on is who might take over the show. Is it going to be the recently hired Ken Jennings? Online speculation is all over the place. One name that also comes up is LeVar Burton of Star Trek Next Generation fame. Trebek has suggested Betty White but I doubt he was serious. I think he also mentioned CNN's Laura Coates last year but she said publicly that she's flattered but not interested.

    1. Betty White would be awesome.

      Speculating who would replace him BEFORE he died would have been...distaseful, but now its quite fine

      This link:

      lists Tom Bergeron, LeVar Burton, Laura Coates, Anderson Cooper, Alex Faust, Ken Jennings, and of course Betty White.

      I would not be surprised if its someone nobody ever heard of. Was Alex Trebek as well known as any of these people when he got the job?

      If it was Ken Jennings then
      1) He could no credibly say `that category sounds hard'
      2) When a contestant gets something wrong he might think really, how could they get that wrong'- which is okay so long as he doesn't look like he is thinking it.

  2. My opinion is that there is too large a premium on speed for clicking in. This discriminates against some contestants (such as persons with muscular dystrophy). It could be fixed by randomly selecting from all who clicked in within some time period.